$500 FOR MY BARE LADY
Byron skinny dippers in a naked rage over police crackdown
A WOMAN is refusing to pay a $500 fine she received for swimming naked at a renowned nudist spot.
“The fine is for offensive behaviour – I’m 56 for God’s sake – how can someone swimming naked be fined $500 for offensive behaviour?” she said.
“For something to be offensive someone had to be offended and nobody was offended. Nobody is looking at each other’s bodies, it’s just a beautiful freedom.”
JUST over a week ago, Byron Bay Superintendent Wayne Starling stopped by Tyagarah Lakes, a popular area for nude swimming, where several instances of sexual assault had been reported.
He wanted to assess the situation first-hand before taking action on the matter of public nudity, which has divided Byron Bay residents for decades.
What he found was a distraught young woman who only minutes before had experienced sexual assault, resulting in the new zero tolerance nudity measures recently put in place.
“The problem we’ve had down there is sexual assaults,” he said.
“I went down there (Tyagarah Lakes) just over a week ago and a young woman ran up to me in tears.
“She was obviously very distressed and she said a male stranger had come up to her and masturbated in front of her.
“When I saw the state of the woman, it hit hard and I knew we had to do something.”
Given the zero tolerance policy was introduced to reduce or stop sexual assaults, Mr Starling said his instructions to Byron Bay officers was to enforce with discretion.
“My instruction to police as of last week was zero tolerance with common sense,” he said. “They have discretionary power.”
Even before the zero tolerance policy was rolled out, locals questioned whether the penalties were too harsh.
A Byron Bay woman, who wished to be referred to only as Maxine, was slapped with a $500 fine for skinny dipping at the Lakes with a friend on Saturday, January 20, despite the area being secluded and nude swimming common.
There is signage in the area stating nudity would be penalised $500 for being “offensive behaviour.”
“The fine is for offensive behaviour – I’m 56 for God’s sake – how can someone swimming naked be fined $500 for offensive behaviour?” she said. “What’s offensive? For something to be offensive, someone had to be offended and nobody was offended.”
Nine days after Maxine’s fine, two men were given the same penalty for having sex on the beach in public.
At that time Byron Bay Mayor Simon Richardson told News Corp the fine seemed excessive.
“If there is an elderly couple or a young couple having a skinny dip, I’d like police to feel they have the power to ascertain whether that is an offence or not, and give them a warning,” he said.
Given Maxine was simply swimming nude, she said her punishment was far too harsh. “It’s (nude swimming) just a beautiful thing to be able to do,” she said.
“When you’re nude and swimming around other people who are connected to nature as well, it’s no big deal.
“Nobody is looking at each other’s bodies, it’s just a beautiful freedom. It’s just something that is our right and in our area people have swum naked for a long, long time – this is not a new thing.
“It’s so un-Byron Bay, it’s so intolerant, it’s excessively punitive.”
Mr Starling said while he couldn’t comment on the decision of the officers who issued Maxine’s fine, he did feel it’s a no-win situation.
“We’ve spoken to council and community members and for every person that doesn’t like the legislation there’s someone who supports it,” he said.
“We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
“It’s a difficult situation but at the end of the day our job is to ensure the community is as safe as possible.”
THE FINE IS FOR OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOUR – I’M 56 FOR GOD’S SAKE ... WHAT’S OFFENSIVE? MAXINE
Police officers patrol the Tyagarah Lakes area yesterday. Below: Maxine with the fine she received there last month.